Fill teacher posts, demand Port Elizabeth parents

Parents keep schools closed in protest

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Photo of protesting school parents
Parents protest in KwaNoxolo demanding schools stay shut. Photo: Joseph Chirume

Schools in Port Elizabeth’s Northern areas remain closed despite the Department of Education providing 98 more teachers to the district. More than 56 schools in the area did not open when the new term started on 13 January.

This follows a week of protests in which buildings were burnt. The same issues resulted in properties being damaged in July last year.

Principal of West End Primary School and Chairman of the Northern Areas Education Forum (NAEF) which represents the affected parents, Ronald Matthys, said, “Parents are not happy at all with the number of additional teachers to the district. The number is still very little. We originally submitted eleven demands to the education department. We then reduced them to four.”

The demands include:

  • all vacant posts must be filled based on the 2016 tenth day snap survey;

  • there must be a 30 to one teacher to pupil ratio,

  • the conversion of section 20 schools to section 21 (section 21 schools have more resources and autonomy), and

  • all outstanding budgets for 2013/14/15 should be paid to schools.

Protesting parents have been visiting schools in the area ensuring that no school opens its gates.They also issued threats to schools in Schauderville that decided not to join in the strike.

Speaking in Gelvandale yesterday, Carlvin Swartbooi, 42, whose son is a grade 6 pupil at Die Heuwel Primary School, vowed to continue with their action. “This government has been shortchanging us for a long time. How can a teacher give his best when he or she has more than 80 pupils in a class? There is too much overcrowding in our classes. We will continue, and are prepared to fight for the future of our children.”

Motherwell resident, Sizakhele Lunga, 56, said she feared for the future of her child who is doing matric. She refused to give the name of the school, but said her child has been taking private lessons to compensate for the lost time.

“There is no quality education here in black schools. I took my child to the coloured areas to get quality education, but now this strike is affecting everything. I support the strike because our government has money but they waste it on useless projects. They should invest in education instead.”

Eastern Cape Premier Phumulo Masualle responded by instructing Education MEC Mandla Makupula to form a multi-disciplinary task team to look into the teacher shortages and other challenges afflicting the Port Elizabeth and Uitenhage districts.

Addressing the media yesterday at the department’s Port Elizabeth district offices, department head Sizakele Netshilaphala appealed to parents to allow their children to attend school.

Netshilaphala said a total of 143 posts will be appointed.

She said, “We have issued 45 posts in Port Elizabeth district and 48 in the Uitenhage district.The appointment of teachers’ letters and verification of other applications is ongoing and we will facilitate further appointments.

“Following the visit by the Premier two weeks ago, 12 mobile classrooms have been delivered to several schools in the Metro. We appeal to parents to desist from disrupting schools. Learners should be allowed adequate time to learn and be taught.”

Netshilaphala said the appointment of teachers should be done professionally without compromising the quality of education.

“It is a very high priority for us to make sure that educators are appointed. Educators need to be properly qualified. We cannot appoint a biology teacher if a maths teacher is required.”

At the media briefing, Eastern Cape Education MEC Mandla Makupula appealed to parents. “It is not that the department is refusing to appoint teachers.The challenge is getting the right teachers to teach the subject as required by the schools.”

The Democratic Alliance and the United Democratic Movement are pushing for MEC Makupula to either step down or be fired in the wake of the province’s record-breaking, dismal performance in the matric class of 2015.

The Eastern Cape posted the worst matric results out of all provinces. The matric pass rate was 57%, down from 65% in 2014.

UDM’s Mongameli Bobani said the MEC had “failed to address simple issues like the hiring of teachers and ensure good furniture and textbooks are delivered in time to schools”.

“How would you expect good matric results when students are taught in mud schools?” he asked.

TOPICS:  Education

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